NJ.com is once again being buggy, so I'm going to duplicate what I wrote there over here. Thoughts on what did and didn't happen coming up after the jump...
"How could we let anybody go on a charity night?" asked "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest at the end of Wednesday night's well-meaning but often clumsy two-hour telethon/results show, in which there was no actual result.
After 120 minutes of promising "the most shocking result in our history," Seacrest and his producers reached into a trick they used back in season two, under less pure circumstances: they didn't get rid of anyone.
The first time they tried this, the week that Corey Clark was disqualified from the show for lying about his criminal history, Team Idol went through the motions of acting like someone would be kicked off by the traditional audience vote. In the end, though, they backed off and said no one would be going home, and that the results would be rolled over for voting the following week.
Back then, it came across like a cheap stunt -- literally -- to prevent Fox from having to cut the season short by a week and lose millions in ad revenue. Plus, because the producers had Seacrest identify the bottom three, it gave those contestants the unfair advantage of extra-motivated fanbases; Rickey Smith, who went home the following week, wasn't in that trio.
This time, "Idol" handled the non-elimination slightly better, and for more noble reasons. Seacrest didn't rank the six contestants at all, and the 70 million votes cast this week will roll over, with two singers going home next week. Everyone's on the same playing field.
And if Fox had announced upfront that no one would be eliminated, would the millions of rabid "Idol" fans have sat through two hours of gratuitous celebrity cameos and emotionally grueling footage of poor and dying people in Africa? Yes, it was a bait-and-switch, but at least it was for a good cause -- several of them, in fact.
But while I can't fault the "Idol" producers' intentions, the execution was another matter. The show opened with Seacrest having difficulty reading the teleprompter, and things remained rocky. The live performances from a separate theater were often underwhelming (a notable exception: Annie Lennox singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water"). The final six contestants struggled as usual to sing together, this time on original compositions by Quincy Jones and Bono. A music video with Carrie Underwood visiting Africa awkwardly seemed to turn the local children into props. Outside of a "Simpsons" parody with Simon as a contestant and Marge, Lisa and Homer as the judges (including a long-deserved Dunkleman joke), the comedy bits all fell flat.
(The biggest misfire: the judges ripping Jack Black for his rendition of "Kiss From a Rose," which was actually the best the song has sounded in "Idol" history, and better than almost every male performance this season.)
Still, money got raised ($30 million by show's end, according to Seacrest) and people will be helped, and for that I'll forgive the non-elimination, Ben Stiller's unfunny and unending bit, or that cheesetastic celebrity lip-synch jam on "Staying Alive."